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Still no answers for BI couple

It’s been a year since Fiona, but Hurricane Lee just made it worse.

Holly and Guy Keeping’s shed in Burnt Islands sustained more damage after Hurricane Lee last month, one year after taking damage from Fiona. — © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter BURNT ISLANDS — When Hurricane Fiona hit the region in Sept. 2022, it caused irreparable damage, and even homes that weren’t lost were put at greater risk for future storms. Hurricane Lee passed through on Sept. 17, triggered high waves and stronger-than-normal winds, and Holly and Guy Keeping’s shed took another hit. “It was compromised from Fiona, so after we had Fiona, when you go on the side of the garage and you look underneath the garage, the ground is eaten out,” said Holly Keeping. “So you could look underneath the garage and now when you get a bit of water and bit of a high tide it washes out some more soil and ground around it, washes it out a little bit each time and it is not going to take much for, one day, the structure to be completely compromised and gone. I’m worried I am going to lose it all.” After Hurricane Lee passed over, it didn’t take long for the Keepings to notice the new damage to the land supporting their shed. “My husband came in a couple of days ago and he said he noticed that, because we had that high tide again, some more ground seems to have washed out. So the concrete wall that was on the side of the garage fell about three to five inches again,” said Keeping. “So if we have a couple more high tides like that, three or four (feet)or whatever the case might be, how much longer is it going to hold out before that retaining wall is gone? Because there were some trees there and the roots were keeping it there too, but now that’s gone. So now that’s dropping and the ground is sinking out. So three to five inches, it makes a bit of difference each time.” Significant mitigation work would have to be done to properly re-stabilize the garage and reinforce it against future weather events. “In order to fix it, you need some big wrap to put on side of it. That will be the only way that we can see it being fixed,” said Keeping. “My husband did think about drilling some holes in the concrete itself inside the garage, because there’s a concrete floor and maybe pouring some concrete down would work, but if there’s nothing there to keep that wall from slipping out, it would be no good to put concrete here because that’s just going to come out too.” Keeping isn’t sure if insurance will help cover all of the costs that would be associated with the repairs. “Because the original damage is from Fiona, and there was a tree there, too, which helped keep the structure more intact, because the roots were in the ground, but because it’s from Fiona, there’s nothing that our insurance can do about it. Now, an engineer was out, and what they’re looking at — and I don’t understand why they’re taking so long to let us know what they wanted to do or what they’re talking about doing — is taking the garage down and moving it closer to my house,” said Keeping. “Between my house now, my house and my garage is maybe 10 feet. Between my house and my garage now, there’s a walkway that goes down through it. There’s not much room there to bring the garage closer to the house. So unless we get some big rock put on that side of the garage, I don’t know what you can do other than that.” What makes matters worse is the garage is still relatively new. “The garage, it’s maybe seven years old. I don’t even think it’s that old, actually, because we’ve been back to Newfoundland, it will be eight years in December. So we built the garage after we moved back,” said Keeping. “Even if the garage does get taken down to rebuild, they’re going to have to put some rock there, because if not, we’re going to be in the same situation in the future. The ground is just going to give way until we’re back to the same situation again.” Some of the items in the garage hold sentimental value and would be devastating to lose. “We don’t have anywhere to put anything right now, so we’ve got our side-by-side (ATV) in there. My husband has all his tools. There’s, everything. I mean, our kids’ toys, all my Christmas decorations and a lot of memorabilia, stuff from when our boys were small is in the top of the garage. But then you’ve got all these big cabinets with tools into it that my husband collected over the years. There’s a big steel lathe in there too that my husband had one time. We put our patio in there, our patio furniture in there. So there’s a lot of stuff in that garage, like our tires,” said Keeping. “I think I don’t even know if the insurance would cover the side-by-side that’s in the garage, and it’s new. Even if I could get insurance money back on that stuff, that’s fine, but what about my kids’ toys and all the things, the memorable stuff that we save over the years from our boys and from things we’ve had along the way? It’s not something that I want to lose, and some things might not seem like much to some people, but to me, it means a lot.” Keeping believes it’s difficult to fully understand or appreciate the overall impact and long-term effects of large-scale weather events like Fiona. “Other people that are going through it. They know what it feels like, and you almost got to be in the situation to know what it feels like. Yes, I was lucky, and I never lost my home. I was very fortunate for that, but I’m going to be the next one to lose my home if we don’t get something done. And to lose what I’ve got — and I don’t want to lose it — I don’t want to lose the things that I’ve got, even the things that to some people might seem silly, but to me, the dishes that are in my china cabinet, that’s my mother’s and father’s wedding dishes. I don’t want to lose anything like that,” said Keeping. “So what do I do? Do I leave stuff in containers and totes and every time there’s going to be a storm, I will have to move totes to my parents’ house because I don’t want to lose my memories and things? Is that a way to live? That’s the frustration.” That feeling of helplessness just adds to their worry, stress and frustration. “You just can’t put it in words and make anybody understand, and I think I’m more frustrated over that part of it than anything else because I feel like I’m lost and I feel like you’re on a planet with people that don’t understand the things that are going on, and you don’t know where to turn to. You don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to call now, after I’ve called so many people and they’re not listening, so what do you do?” said Keeping. “For us down the coast, and I can speak for a lot of us in the smaller communities and in Burgeo. I know there’s a few families down there. Same thing. It’s like we can’t even pick up the pieces because we’re left with this uncertainty of being compromised, so now what’s going to happen? We can’t settle back into a normal life?” Keeping said there is no relaxing because the uncertainty of what comes next is always looming. “(We’re) Always on edge, and how long can you go on? How many nights are you going to cry and be up to the window and looking in the water? I’ve even felt like just moving away from it, take a loss, cut it off, just leave it. I felt like that, but then I’m left with a mortgage payment, and then I’ve got to go somewhere else. There’s no feeling how to describe it. There’s just no feeling. It feels like you’re completely lost, and you just don’t know where to turn to anymore, and I don’t know where to turn to,” said Keeping. “After Fiona, I didn’t have much damage to my home, but that little bit of damage that we did have — the water was in our basement and it took away that ground that we had in our backyard. Next time am I going to be the one in that situation and am I going to be looked after? Will it fall under the same category as Fiona because I’ve lost this ground by my garage previously? There’s a lot of what ifs and questions that I’ve asked and there’s no answers for me. Apparently nobody knows.”

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